052.1: Gillian Conoley:: Experiments in Patience I-III 052

I recently discovered the prepared piano pieces of John Cage and Conlon Nancarrow. At first, the pieces frustrated my expectations of what musical composition could (or should) be. After a few hours of listening and cocking my head, I realized that this was an artistic encounter I had not experienced in a long, long time: genuine surprise. Gillian Conoley’s poetry is as welcome and genuine a surprise. Conoley punctuates her experiments with phonetic and lexical splashes without detracting from the levity of addiction and frustration: “Six signs you need to detox—patience broods and peacocks”. Conoley also manages tremendous subtlety with sarcastic humor. Few poets could manage the simultaneously sharp and off-handed “Family more/than genetics/and laundry” in lyrically meditative space. Even fewer could fill two lines like “I love you,//but it spills” with such authenticity and mystery. Weeks ago, I found myself cocking my head, pondering these experiments. I couldn’t avoid a gratuitous use of the word “and” in this introduction just to describe Conoley’s poems. I’m an amateur. But then I remembered that in French, experience and experiment derive from the same word. And this insight, without providing answers, at least indulges us in such numinous surprise.

These three poems by Conoley are excerpted from her chapbook Experiments in Patience, which is forthcoming this month in the second installment of TOA's Chapvelope Series. Read more about the other work included in Chapvelope Two and pre-order your copy now. Ryan Winet

Experiments in Patience I

Vale of soul making––

The cottontop tamarind
& the common marmoset

The tamarind eats insects
with quick jabbing strikes
while the common marmoset

must wait for days
for gum to flow
from trees.

Six signs you need to detox–– Patience broods and peacocks

Virtue stirs the pulp

I will wait for the God who saves me     the hosannah     of all I am programmed for
to escape me

Unfiltered sun
an elevator down

A species

of dandelions,   yellow splashes

Experiments in Patience II

Family more
than genetics
and laundry

sweep the earth
in your
cemetery slippers

one foot slipping out

Experiments in Patience III

the speaking machine sits there listening,

a pit and a dungeon.       somebody is not going

to make it in time.    but will see you later.

a promissory.

out the window summer voices of children herded

by volunteers.       see you in ten.

how ‘bout never?

how does never


a frayed stylus

brushes the worn-out record’s

subcutaneous enormities.

look we’ve all heard this a million times.

graveyard boots

outside a white shed.

            I love you

beside a small red plastic fork.

sag         drags and falls,

ministerial flora
near the watercress.

see you.               I love you,

but it spills